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MS Thr 426

Tobias, Tobi, compiler. Tobi Tobias Oral history of the Royal Danish Ballet and its Bournonville tradition, 1983-1986: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository, b
Call No.: MS Thr 426
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Tobias, Tobi, compiler.
Title: Tobi Tobias Oral history of the Royal Danish Ballet and its Bournonville tradition, 1983-1986.
Date(s): 1983-1986.
Quantity: 1 collection (5 linear feet (113 master audiocassettes, 113 research audiocassettes, 213 audio CD-ROMs, and 3 boxes)
Abstract: Audiocassettes, audio CD-ROMs, typescript transcripts, and administrative records, for oral history interviews of the Royal Danish Ballet, compiled by American dance writer Tobi Tobias.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2003MT-236. Gift of Tobi Tobias, with the written permission of the oral authors; received: 1987-1999.

Processing Information:

Revised 2009 January.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access to the oral history interviews and the corresponding transcripts is governed by the wishes of the individual oral author, during the oral author's lifetime. After the oral author's death his/her memoir is open for consultation.
At this time (Mar. 2004), a number of the oral memoirs are open for consultation; others require for consultation the written permission of the oral author; still others are closed during the lifetime of the oral author. A complete list of access policies is available in the Harvard Theatre Collection, and researchers are strongly encouraged to contact the Theatre Collection before visiting.
The compiler has required that all researchers read a short introduction to the collection before consulting the recordings or the transcripts. This introduction is available in the Harvard Theatre Collection.
Series: III. Project administrative records are restricted: consult the Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection.
Part of this collection (Series: II. Compact Discs) is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.


Rights to the content of the oral memoirs rests in the oral author during his/her lifetime; upon the oral author's death, these rights revert to the Library of the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen.
The Harvard Theatre Collection has agreed to serve as the American custodian of the oral history project. The Library of the Royal Theatre (Det kongelige Teaters Bibliotek og Arkiv), Copenhagen, is the Danish custodian, and the owner of copyright to interview tapes and transcripts after the deaths of individual oral authors.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Tobi Tobias Oral History of the Royal Danish Ballet and its Bournonville Tradition, 1983-1986 (MS Thr 426). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

The Library of the the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, serving as the Danish custodian of this collection, holds a duplicate set of the materials described above, with the exception of the master tapes.

Separated Materials

The Harvard Theatre Collection holds a complementary collection containing photocopies of many of Ms. Tobias's published articles on the Royal Danish Ballet, and background history on the company collected by Ms. Tobias.

Biographical / Historical

Tobi Tobias, who conceived and implemented this project, is an American dance writer who specializes in classical ballet. She was the dance critic for New York magazine from 1980 to 2002. Associated with Dance magazine from 1971 to 1998, she wrote criticism, profiles, and feature stories, editing the journal's criticism from 1976 to 1983. She has written extensively on the Royal Danish Ballet and its Bournonville heritage. The centenary Bournonville Festival in Copenhagen in 1979 catalyzed her desire to record, through the creation of oral memoirs, significant aspects of Danish ballet history that were likely to remain unwritten and thus eventually lost. Her earlier work in oral history includes participation in the Oral History Project of the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center for its entire six-year duration. For a decade, Ms. Tobias taught dance criticism in the Dance Department of Barnard College, Columbia University. She is also the author of numerous books for children. In 1992, she was knighted by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
To create the oral memoirs, Ms. Tobias first conducted exhaustive preliminary investigative research, drawing on both Danish- and English-language sources, to trace the influence of August Bournonville, who led the company and its school from 1829 to 1877. He choreographed the repertory and shaped a style of dancing that has given the Danish ballet its unique profile and heritage. She then selected the oral authors (dancers, stagers, teachers, coaches, and administrators of the Royal Danish Ballet), defined the areas to be explored with them, and finally conducted a series of audiotaped interviews with each person. The interviews took place in three stages between 1983 and 1986, for the most part in Copenhagen and New York. To give the oral memoirs the widest possible audience, the interviews were conducted in English; in a single case, at the request of the oral author, both oral author and oral historian speak their mother tongues, Danish and English respectively.


Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

This collection includes oral memoir recordings of interviews conducted by Tobi Tobias with artists of the Royal Danish Ballet, and typed transcripts of those recordings (for 12 of the 26 oral memoirs). The recordings are represented in three series, organized by format: I. Archival-quality master audiocassettes (stored off-site), and audiocassettes for research use at the Harvard Theatre Collection; II. Compact discs remastered in 1999 from the master audiocassettes (stored off-site); and III. Project administrative records and transcripts of oral history interviews. Transcripts of the memoirs were made by Tobi Tobias, with the help of Alexandra Tomalonis and Rea Wilmshurst.
Most of the artists chosen to create oral memoirs held multiple positions within the ballet company. The oral authors are Frank Andersen, Arne Bech, Dinna Bjorn, FredBjorn Bjornsson, Hans Brenaa, Erik Bruhn, Jette Buchwald, Mette Brdtcher, Johnny Eliasen, Sorella Englund, Tommy FrishrI, Mona Jensen, Lis Jeppesen, Niels Kehlet, Mette-Ida Kirk, Henning Kronstam, Niels Bjorn Larsen, Benedikte Paaske, Edel Pedersen, Kirsten Ralov, Flemming Ryberg, Frank Schaufuss, Kirsten Simone, Helgi Tomasson, Anne Marie Vessel, and Arlette Weinreich.
Supplementary folders for each of the oral authors contain related written material provided by the oral authors. Following the transcription of Niels Bjorn Larsen's oral memoir is a non-verbatim summary of an informal interview conducted by Tobi Tobias of Mr. Larsen and his daughter, Dinna Bjorn, in New York, in June 1982, concerning the Pantomime Theatre in Tivoli. The audiotapes for this interview are no longer available, but the text illustrates so well the closeness of the ballet and the Pantomime Theatre in Copenhagen that Mr. Larsen and Ms. Bjorn elected to have this text included in their supplementary materials.


A portion of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

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